Ernie Els Disappointed South African LIV Players Didn’t Seek His Opinion

The four-time Major winner is unhappy that compatriots who joined LIV Golf didn’t ask for his thoughts beforehand

Ernie Els takes a tee shot at the 2023 Chubb Classic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ernie Els has expressed his disappointment that South African LIV Golf players didn’t seek his opinion before signing for the circuit.

Speaking at last week’s Chubb Classic on the PGA Tour Champions, Els admitted to the Palm Beach Post that there was no animosity between him and the likes of Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, but said: “We’ve lost that camaraderie, definitely. I’m still friends with them but it’s different.”

Four-time Major winner Els is not only a mentor to many South African players, but also a friend, and he explained he was unhappy players didn't approach him before making the leap to the big-money organisation. He said: “I was disappointed they never asked me my opinion. I had them in the foundation [in South Africa], looked after them as youngsters. They flew with me, they stayed at my house. Kind of nurtured them to get onto the PGA Tour. It just was done in a way I didn’t like.”

Despite that, Els said he could understand the appeal of signing for LIV Golf. He said: “As an international player and living in South Africa, it’s tough to come over here, your family, upend your whole household to join the PGA Tour. So I get that. But for me, no.”

Els also admitted that he was unimpressed with the way that LIV had disrupted the top of the game. He explained: “They have gone about it the wrong way and they’ve really upended a lot of good the game stands for. The whole thing just doesn’t sit right.”

Els explained that he’d also met with officials from LIV Golf before it launched, but that his proposal for it to partner with the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PGA Tour Champions fell on deaf ears. Els said he told them: “We can play around the world and play team golf and get some television network that will buy it and come back to your respective tours and get on with life."

While that suggestion never went any further, Els insisted the idea was worth considering, saying: “I think that would have been a cool way… they didn’t see it that way and they basically showed me the door early on.”

One of the most high-stakes battles LIV Golf is currently involved in is the fight to gain eligibility for Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points in its events. Attempts to secure eligibility have included forming a strategic alliance with the developmental MENA Tour and 50 of its players signing a letter addressed to OWGR chairman Peter Dawson stating its case for approval. So far, nothing it has tried has found a breakthrough, and Els thinks he knows why.

He said: “There is no way you can give ranking points. They’re playing team golf. They say it’s all about team golf. How in the hell can you give that any serious consideration? It’s not a stroke-play event, you’re playing a team event with 48 players. There is no way they can get ranking points.”

The 12 team line-ups for the opening tournament of the season, have now been confirmed, with the season beginning on 24 February in Mexico at the El Camaleon Golf Club. One of the teams is the all South African Stinger GC, but it seems unlikely Els will be tuning in to see how they get on. He admitted: “I have not seen one golf shot” of theirs since his compatriots signed for LIV Golf.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.